Channel 4 Film: “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”

I’m going to keep this post brief and my own comments to a minimum, because I’m still processing a lot of this myself, but because of some time sensitivities I wanted to bring this to Sepia Mutiny readers’ attention now.

The U.K.’s Channel 4 has produced a much-discussed film called “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,” which is about the way the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009. “The programme features devastating new video evidence of war crimes – some of the most horrific footage Channel 4 has ever broadcast,” Channel 4 says. I’d recommend watching it; all signs are that it’s going to be a part of the conversation for awhile, and the official link is only up for four more days (there are a few unofficial links in other spots, but who knows how or if that will continue).

Link to the film (please be forewarned that it contains a considerable amount of extremely graphic material–to quote Channel 4, “With disturbing and distressing descriptions and film of executions, atrocities and the shelling of civilians”):

Link to related interviews on PBS NewsHour, which includes the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.S., as well as someone from the International Crisis Group–

A link to a recent report from an advisory panel to the U.N. Secretary General

You can find analysis of these items, particularly the first and the third, in various spots on the Interwebs… but lots is still coming out, and it’s too early to know which pieces I find particularly strong. Sri Lanka citizen journalism site Groundviews, of course, will be one option. My purpose here is mostly to say that if you’re interested in forming your own opinion, you have a limited time to check out the movie itself. (That URL works all over the world.) Continue reading

Sysop-in-chief leaving Whitehouse

Sources: Kundra leaving White House:

Vivek Kundra, the first-ever federal chief information officer, is planning to leave the White House in August, according to sources.

Kundra, who has held the position for two-and-a-half years, is leaving the administration for Harvard, the sources said, although it’s unclear if he’ll be teaching or taking a more research-oriented post.

As CIO in the Office of Management and Budget, Kundra was responsible for overseeing $80 billion in federal information technology projects. In that role, he spearheaded a number of initiatives to try to make the government’s complex technology systems more efficient and less costly.

Kundra is one of three White House officials tapped to revamp the government’s use of technology. President Barack Obama also appointed Aneesh Chopra as the federal chief technology officer and Jeffrey Zients as the chief performance officer. All three positions were brand new roles in the White House.

I’m a little behind in the curve when it comes to these sorts of things, but technically I think Kundra would be an “information architect.” I imagine the architects to be the officer corps of the systems administrators, who are the grunts.

According to Google Trends there hasn’t been any news out of this guy for a while….which is usually a good thing if you’re a systems administrator! It’s kind of like being an offensive line guy in football, if people are noticing you it’s probably not a good thing (e.g., there’s been a major security breach and you have to take the fall for it). I’m personally skeptical of the “cloud computing” initiative Kundra spearheaded, for national security reasons. I wouldn’t ever put anything sensitive in Dropbox, and I don’t care how good the feds think they are, hackers will worm their way into their “lockbox” in the cloud at some point. But Vivek Kundra doesn’t have to worry about it, some other command-line jockey will take the fall for it…. Continue reading


I think it’s safe to say that our names play a big part in how we define ourselves and how others perceive us. This seems true whether a) people get your name right every time, b) you conduct a lesson on pronunciation each time you meet someone new, c) you go by a nickname, e) you go by your Starbucks name, or e) [insert your story here]. In a rhythmic reflection on his name called Ache In My Name Vivek Shraya asks “Is a name how it’s pronounced or how I pronounce it?”

ACHE IN MY NAME (short film) from Vivek Shraya on Vimeo.

If Shraya’s name sounds familiar then maybe you’ve heard his music or read his short stories. His alterna-electropop musical history includes collaborations with members from the groups Tegan and Sara, and Marcy Playground. Shraya, who grew up in Edmonton, self-published his first book last year, God Loves Hair, an illustrated collection of short stories about a queer desi youth growing up “as he navigates complex realms of sexuality, gender, racial politics, religion, and belonging.” It’s on the American Library Association’s Rainbow List and was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Lambda Literary Awards. Continue reading

What is brown/desi to you?

I recently had a discussion with a columnist on Asian American issues about my own identity as a brown person who self-identifies as a conservative. It’s rather amusing to me that the mainstream media is far more curious about my rare intersection of identities (e.g., interest in my combination of atheism and right-wing orientation), than the preponderance of my online production in science, which is perhaps a touch too abstruse for the general public.

brown.jpgBut much of the back & forth hinged upon definitions. For example, I use the term “brown” regularly. But what does that mean? First, a word is a word, and anyone can “own” a word. I’m not the pope of terms like “brown” or “desi,” their meaning crystallizes through bottom up consensus. But my own definition makes recourse to the set theory concept of a union. That is, for me the identity is not a intersection of necessary preconditions, but a wide collection of identities which can be usefully bracketed together. So when asked why I considered myself brown, the reality that I’m racially a brown person, and will be until the day that I die. I could relocate to Japan, marry a Japanese woman and change my name, and become initiated into Shinto rites, but I’d still be brown in terms of my racial identity. For me the brown-as-race definition works well enough that I don’t need to think about it too deeply. But there other flavors out there. Continue reading

South Asians “represent” in personal genomics

CeCe Moore is reporting the following ethnic breakdowns for 23andMe’s customer database (as claimed by a scientist at the firm):

1000 African American
3500 Latino/Hispanic
5500 East Asian
3400 South Asian
4900 Southern European
6200 Ashkenazi Jewish
56,000 Northern European
1,000 First generation from two continents

All that being said, rumor has it that 3,000 of these South Asians are Iyers! (that’s a joke)

(H/T Zack Ajmal) Continue reading

Do You Miss Colonialism?

I know I do! Which is why I was thrilled to find out about a new computer game that lets you relive that amazing period of history as the glorious nations that helped to shape the world into the great success that it is today.


Pride of Nations is a turn-based historical strategy game set in the colonial era of the 19th century, where the player takes control of a country and guides it through industrialization, military conquest, and colonization. This upcoming release from AGEOD follows such successful historical strategy games as Birth of America, American Civil War, Napoleon’s Campaigns, and Wars in America [linkocricy].

What? What’s that I hear you say, friend? You feel slightly more ill now than you’d otherwise feel on a Monday morning because there’s about a 0.0001% chance that Pride of Nations in any way addresses the awful things these countries did to colonies and their people? Well rest assured!

Fight against a strong AI through a number of new game mechanisms

Yes! Strong AI will represent your ancestors and their struggle for freedom!

Continue reading

Advice for Huma Abedin, i.e. Stay Home and Have Babies

Dear Ms. Keller,

To be honest, I really have had no desire to write a single word about Weinergate. Our guest blogger, Razib has been keeping tabs on the story for us here at Sepia Mutiny. Other than my girlcrush on the fashionable lady married to the man in question and my well-wishes for the future success of the individuals involved, I didn’t really care to comment on the matter. After all, who knows/cares what goes on in the boudoirs of a married couple.

Those are exactly the sentiments you express in your post for Vanity Fair. In “Advice for Huma Abedin, Wife of Representative Anthony Weiner,” you write, “We’ve never been able to fathom the laws of attraction, and we haven’t a clue what goes on in other people’s relationships. She says she’s staying. So we’ll take it from there, and give her some tips to help make it work.” Then you go on to comment on their relationship. Well, what’s a little gossip between us ladies? Right? Right. Let me start by saying how much I admire your five tips for Ms. Abedin Mrs. Weiner. Stay home. Focus on the family. Lose lame-o mentors like Hillary (with her goshdarnawful contagious marital problems). Make awesome babies. All fabulous tips that my grandmother has been telling me for years. Continue reading

Shed Your Sleeves: Lose the Skin-Lightening Creams

productLf.jpgOnly a few weeks till the start of summer. This can only mean one thing: skin. Bring on the season of skin-baring shorts, skorts, minis, sundresses, tank tops and bathing suits. And if you’re desi, bring on the nagging moms and aunties who try to tell you to cover up – more for the sake of preserving your complexion than for modesty’s sake. I think you all know how I feel about our society’s obsession with skin coloring. But I was reminded of it again when Ennis sent me a clip of an upcoming documentary, “Dark Girls.” The clip features African American women, but the movie’s producers write, “We know this issue goes beyond the United States and Black people. This is for ALL women from around the world.” I agree. Continue reading

The Return of Manny Malhotra

If you’re not a hockey fan, you may not have heard of Manny Malhotra, the greatest desi everMalhotra.jpg to hit the ice (Smirnoff included). After suffering a severe eye injury on March 16, he recovered just in time to give a boost to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final (you may have caught parts of it during the Extreme Makeover commercial breaks).

The Canucks led in the circle in the regular season, at 54.9 per cent. They’re at 49.9 in the playoffs and a lot of the drop-off is because Malhotra and his 61.7 per cent win rate were on the sidelines until Game 2.

“Over the last couple of weeks as I’ve started to work toward this goal, being able to take draws against guys like Kes and Hank and Lappy really pushes you to get to that next level,” said Malhotra. “The competitive level we have at centre really gets your timing back.”

Malhotra did remarkably well overall in 7: 26 of ice time. He played 13 shifts, including killing penalties and taking a leftwing shift on the third line in relief of Raffi Torres.

He purposely kept his game simple and saw the 7: 26 as a good transition back into playing. In the regular season, as one of the best third line centres in the league and in the conversation for the Selke Trophy for top defensive forward, Malhotra averaged 16: 09. [Vancouver Province]

The Bruins walloped the Canucks 8-1 in Game 3, but Malhotra’s team still leads the series 2-1 and has home ice advantage.

Continue reading